4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
“ANT-MAN AND THE WASP”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2018; PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence; Streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play, iTunes, YouTube, Vudu (4K)
Best extra: Commentary with director Peyton Reed
THE MARVEL gang keeps pumping comic book movies out like candy – three a year – and, surprisingly, they’ve all been entertaining. “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” the 20th in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is no exception, laced with heartwarming moments, a comical charm and zippy special effects. Its central storyline is a rescue mission to reunite Hope Van Dyne, (Evangeline Lilly — “Lost,” “The Hobbit”), with her mom, Janet – the first Wasp – who’s been missing for over 30 years.
In his commentary, director Peyton Reed says he always envisioned Michelle Pfeiffer as the Wasp of the 1980s. Reed wasn’t alone. Four years ago, when Lilly signed on, she told the producers at Marvel that Pfeiffer would be perfect to play her mom – especially if the storyline went in that direction.
The film’s action-packed prologue takes place at the height of the Cold War. Ant-Man/Dr. Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas, a leading character in “Ant-Man” (2015) and his wife Janet/Wasp are called upon to stop a nuclear missile. When they arrive at the missile silo the rocket is already airborne. The only way to disarm the bomb is to go inside, but they discover the metal armor is too thick. The last option is for one of them to shrink between the molecules, which will eventually transport them into the Quantum Realm, never to be seen again.
Hank tries first, but his regulator is damaged, so Janet turns hers off. “Tell Hope I love her,” she tells Hank, seconds before the missile hits. Instantly, she goes subatomic and starts to deactivate the bomb. That day Hope’s mom saved thousands of lives and now she’s “alone, afraid and gone forever,” Hank tells Hope.
At the end of “Ant-Man” everything changed when Scott Lang/Ant-Man, played by Paul Rudd in his comedic persona, returned from the Quantum Realm. Hank began to think Hope’s mother could still be alive. He dusted off old plans for the Quantum Tunnel project he started years earlier while running his company, PYM Technologies. Hank tells Hope, “I think it’s possible to bring her back.”
Now, Scott Lang is under house arrest for violating the Sokovia Accords in “Captain America: Civil War.” During the featurette “Back in the Ant Suit,” Reed says Lang is the real everyman in the Marvel Universe, “because he’s not a super scientist or a billionaire. His goal is just being a better father to his daughter.” We find Scott and his daughter Cassie, wonderfully played by Abby Ryder Fortson, on all fours pretending to be ant-sized in a maze of cardboard boxes. It’s an Indiana Jones like-quest with color string lasers and a papier-mâché ant pointing the way to the secret vault where a micro-treasure resides. It’s a trophy Cassie got for her dad for his birthday – the only one available – labeled, “World’s Greatest Grandma.” With the treasure in hand, the two are off on a cool bobsled-like ride down a course from the attic, to the outside steps, to the backyard. Scott’s leg breaks through the fence with his ankle bracelet and sets off the perimeter alarm. With only three days of Scott’s 2-year house arrest left, the FBI arrives for a complete search of his San Francisco house.
Rudd says, in one of the featurettes, that his comical style was influenced by the antics of Bill Murray. “He just has this way about him that he just seems to not take any of it seriously.”
Returning are Scott’s pals, led by Luis (a hilarious Michael Peña), the fast-talking head of their new private security firm; with sidekicks Tip “T.I.” Harris as Dave, and David Dastmalchian as Kurt. Hannah John-Kamen, from “Game of Thrones,” plays Eva, the mysterious Ghost woman, who joins Professor Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), an ex-partner of Hank’s, to try to steal the Quantum Tunnel, which is housed in a 1970s 10-story building that can be miniaturized to the size of a large briefcase on wheels with a handle.
The commentary, only available on the enclosed Blu-ray and several of the streaming sites (FandangoNOW, Vudu), is clearly the best one, with plenty of backstories and insights from Reed, who helmed both “Ant-Man” films. He gives high praise to the “youngification” software from the folks at Lola that made Douglas and Pfeiffer look decades younger for the opening flashback scene.
Four ‘Making Of’ featurettes, running over 22 minutes, provide details into the production: “Back in the Ant Suit: Scott Lang” has interviews with cast and crew, who talk about Rudd’s wisecracks and boyish face as the shrinking superhero; “A Suit of Her Own: The Wasp” underlines the evolution of the Wasp suit and a fight sequence at a restaurant that required five weeks of training for Lilly and the stunt team; “Subatomic Super Heroes: Hank and Janet” includes an in-depth interview with Pfeiffer, about her discovery that Janet was one of the founding members of the Avengers, a warrior, and brilliant scientist; “Quantum Perspective: The VFX and Production Design” details the expanded photorealistic effects shots used for the shrinking and growing technology by Ant-Man and the Wasp, as well as the massive set used for the Quantum Tunnel.
Also included are gag reels, outtakes, deleted scenes and a 10th anniversary Marvel image gallery.
Reed and Italian cinematographer Dante Spinotti (“The Insider,” “L.A. Confidential”) captured the Marvel action on 3.4K and 6.5K digital cameras but, sadly, the exceptional footage was mastered in 2K. It’s another example of how 2K rendering for the FX shots lowers the quality for the rest of the film. The upconverted sharpness is still several clicks above the Blu-ray, exhibiting the finest detail, such as the honeycomb-textured suits worn by Ant-Man and the Wasp, with the abundance of wide shots that accentuated the original theatrical presentation in 3D. (No 3D disc is available in the U.S.)
The expanded HDR toning gives the blacks, mid-tones and highlights an extra pop, from the opening missile attack to the extraordinary FX shots during the rescue mission. Surprisingly, the colors are very similar between the 4K and Blu-ray for a majority of the film, but once Hank enters the Quantum Realm the color spectrum takes off, with richer brilliant reds, greens, and blues.
For the last six months Disney has misdialed the Dolby Atmos soundtracks for their 4K discs with lower volumes and possible EQ compression but, thankfully, this time the tonal quality and bass response is within the normal range. During the missile attack you’ll actually feel the subwoofer doing its thing – without turning the volume up – and the fidelity during the pop tunes sprinkled throughout are clear and balanced between dialogue and effects, as with the TV theme classic “Come on Get Happy” from “The Partridge Family”; and the groovy “Spooky” from Dusty Springfield and Morrissey’s “Everyday is Like Sunday.” The height and rear speakers get their biggest bump during the climactic Quantum Realm sequence.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” will not disappoint, hitting all of the right heartstring notes, while giving Marvel another 4K hit.
― Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer